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Diane Bish embodies the Joy of Music

November 17, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
There are warm sunny Sunday afternoons we all remember. Sunday was a cold and rainy and blustery one that will be remembered for the warmth of the music inside Blessed Sacrament Church in Wintersville as world-renowned organist Diane Bish played selections on the church’s new Allen organ.

Miss Bish is best known as the lady behind the keyboards of the world’s greatest organs on her “Joy of Music” program, which airs on EWTN and the Cornerstone network in the area (check your local cable listings). The half-hour of instrumental music is captivating on television. Getting to watch her up close and hear her talent directly for two hours was simply amazing.

From the softest of tunes to the explosive grandeur with all the stops open, it was an afternoon to please everyone from the experienced organists in the audience right down to the folks in the pews who won’t even try to carry a tune on any given Sunday.

Miss Bish can play arpeggios with her feet. If you’re not a musician, just take it from me that it’s other-worldly. (It's kind of the organist version of Ayrton Senna driving his race car at Monaco compared with you, driving to the corner store for some milk.) She played melody and accompaniment with both hands, both feet, switched instrument voices and made incredible sounds come out of the church’s new organ that made one do a double-take to realize it was just the little blonde-haired woman behind the console and not a 50-piece orchestra making all the music.

A camera angle that is used on her TV show is provided and projected on a big screen to allow all to see the truly agile dexterity (it’s not a big enough word) displayed by this lifetime musician.

From grandiose pieces such as “Allegro From Concerto Gregoriano” by Pietro Yon to quiet and moving selections such as “Apres un reve: by Gabriel Faure, Miss Bish drew a well of appreciation from the standing-room-only crowd in the church.

Her pieces ran the gamut from a near-polka arrangement of the Gospel standard “There’s a New Name Written Down in Glory” (it was impossible to keep from smiling as she played this tune) to the concert-hall recessional “Toccata from Symphony” by Widor (it was impossible not to picture the Archbishop of Canterbury leaving the cathedral). Her own “Dance of the Trumpets” brought the capabilities of the organ to the forefront. All the pieces were played with the perfection that makes the listener realize they’ve been blessed to be in the room with someone who operates on a musical plain far above the merely excellent. It was music that one experiences as much as hears, that makes the listener feel the gift of the musician.

Her self-effacing humor (she says she’s never been invited back to play at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris because the console caught fire when she was practicing) only added to the performance.

Miss Bish provided the light and warmth that Sunday afternoon didn’t have outside the church, and for that alone we must be thankful. Her music is other-worldly in terms of not only the sound but the talent she displays. And while the concentration required to carry out the performance she provides must be beyond that of most of us, she is virtually glowing and smiling the entire time her fingers flying around the keyboards. The Joy of Music is something she embodies and shares with anyone else nearby when she plays.

Thanks to Monsignor Kurt Kemo, the people of Allen Organ Co. and Gerrero’s Allen Organ Sales, the people of Blessed Sacrament and the other sponsors of the event for bringing a musical gift to the church and the community.


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